OBITUARY: Gordon Waddell, former Rand Lord
GORDON Waddell, once a prominent member of South Africa’s latter-day Rand Lords in the 1970s and 1980s, Scottish international rugby player of note before then and one of the South African Associated Newspapers (SAAN) businessmen who presided over the closure of the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Express in 1985, has died in Britain at the age of 75.
Born in Glasgow on April 12 1937, he made a name for himself in rugby as a flyhalf, playing 18 times for Scotland, for the British Lions and the Barbarians.
Rugby brought him to South Africa, where he played against the Springboks in 1960, and later he returned, married mining heiress Mary Oppenheimer and began a whirlwind business and political career in South Africa.
In Scotland he had been educated at St Mary’s Melrose and Fettes College, Edinburgh, and after completing his national service as a Royal Marine Commando he went on to Cambridge, where he gained a BA degree that was later complemented with an MBA from Stanford University in the US.
His business career took off after he became a director of E Oppenheimer & Sons Ltd in 1967, a position he held for 20 years. In South Africa he was a firm favourite of his father-in-law, mining magnate Harry Oppenheimer, who brought him into the mining industry — first at Anglo American, where in 1971 he became an executive director for 16 years. In 1971 he also became chairman of Johannesburg Consolidated Investments (JCI) and Rustenburg Platinum Mines.
His business interests in South Africa included South African Breweries and his chairmanship at JCI projected him onto the board of SAAN (now Avusa) as the representative of Anglo American’s ownership of the company. This brought him into closer contact with the Rand Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Sunday Express and the Financial Mail.
In the three years before the Rand Daily Mail was closed in 1985 three former editors of the Mail — Laurence Gandar, Allister Sparks and Raymond Louw — paid annual visits to him to warn him that the Mail was in danger of closing because of the poor management of the company. They urged him to take action and he promised to do so but the paper closed with the company incurring an overdraft of R10m.
It was later suspected that the losses that the Mail was supposed to have contributed to those the company incurred were a result of disproportionate cost allocations arising from the company’s joint operations. Indeed, the financial management practices of SAAN later became a case study at the Witwatersrand University’s Business School.
Waddell, like his father-in-law, took a keen interest in politics. He joined the Progressive Party (now absorbed into the Democratic Alliance) and was elected to Parliament in 1974 by winning the Johannesburg North constituency. He was one of seven party representatives who joined Helen Suzman, the sole defender of the party in Parliament for the preceding 13 years, and he became the party’s spokesperson on economic affairs.
His marriage to Mary broke up but this did not dim Oppenheimer’s regard for him and he rose to be chairman of JCI. in 1987, a few years after his second marriage, to Kathy Gallagher, the family left to set up home in Scotland. He is said to have wanted his children educated there.
He pursued business interests in Britain in stockbroking ad investment trusts, and was a director of Cadbury Schweppes.
His death followed several illnesses. He is survived by his wife, Kathy, and her children, Inca, Justine and Jamie, and Victoria and Rebecca from his first marriage.
The funeral service will be private and memorial services will be held in London and South Africa.
More in this section
- Home Affairs defends decision to grant asylum to war crimes suspect
- Mandela’s daughters, lawyer ‘in cahoots to secure companies’ cash’, claims Chuene
- Karabus lands in Cape Town after UAE ordeal
- Amcu leader says union will ‘bring economy to standstill’
- Equal Education decries delays in norms and standards for schools
- Business as usual at all operations, says Amplats